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COLUMN: We're so smart, but dumb all the same

We seem to have on the one hand advanced in technical matters to a degree quite surprisingly past all of our abilities, yet on the other hand ended up as a society in general that is incapable of acting in our own best interests. We're smart, and dumb.

For example, I don't have a clue how the InterNet works. I don't have a clue what a network is. I really, really, really don't have a clue how a touch screen on a cell phone works. Were the world to blow up tomorrow, I'd be at maximum capacity to build a wet fire and send smoke signals.

See what I mean about how far beyond us technology is? And it's everywhere. What happened to the good old days when we rowed a boat out into the lake and dropped a worm on a hook? Enjoyed the day, escaped from the grind. A fishing boat now has so much electronic equipment that the average cost of catching 10 fish a year is about a hundred bucks a fish.

I remember telling a representative of the phone company, when they came and demonstrated what was one of the first--if not the first--cell phone to a group of businessmen. "You'll be able to take it with you everywhere," the guy said. "You'll never be out of touch, be able to conduct business blah, blah, blah." He held it reverently in his hand. Even he didn't quite know what to think, were he to be truthful.

"Will it float?" I asked him. He seemed confused by the question. Float? He stammered a bit, and then got himself together enough to ask why did I want to know that?

"Because," I said, "if I forget and it's in my pocket when I'm out fishing, and it rings, I'm going to throw it as far as I can, and I want to be sure it sinks." He seemed disappointed in me.

Now I cannot go anywhere without one. If it doesn't ring, I take it out, look at the screen, and, just to give you a general idea of how yesterday meshes with today, I give it a good shake, like I maybe could rattle a call out of it, like I used to get one more Jawbreaker out of a box that seemed empty.

I was in a public restroom the other day, in front of a urinal, where there was a sign. The sign said: "Flush for sanitary reasons."

Really. I thought to myself, uh huh. Big brother is watching over us, here, and as I reached out to flush, I said to myself, I'm flushing just to move that chrome handle there down.

Good grief. I tried to think of all the reasons that one might flush that urinal for the wrong reason. I tried to imagine The Urinal Policeman (I hope it's not gender neutral; the last thing I need is an imaginary Urinal Policewoman patrolling around inside my head, while I'm peeing.)

"Did you just pee in that urinal?" asked The Urinal Policeman.

Who said that, I would ask, as I peered around the nice, shiny public bathroom at the local convenience store.

"I noticed that you flushed before you went," he said, his voice echoing the way voices echo in those bathrooms. Some times I shout "Hey!" very sharply, just to hear it bounce around. I hope The Urinal Policeman doesn't think I'm shouting at my, well, you know, to get its attention. Yes, I'm getting older. But hollering doesn't help me go.

Yes, I did. Isn't that ok?

"Not if you didn't do it for sanitary reasons. I'm going to have to give you a Urinary Infraction ticket. Don't do it any more."

I still can't think of other reasons to flush it. Maybe some people think it's a miniature waterfall, and like to see the water fall, or something.

We're so smart, yet we're so stupid.

I was repairing the air conditioning at the local drugstore once when I overheard old Mrs. D...... say to the druggist: "Well, these darned things are irritating my butt something fierce." He seemed confused. I couldn't see exactly what he had in his hand, but she had brought it back in and given it to him. She was pretty upset.

"You said these would help, not irritate me more." She was now waving little silver things at him. Uh huh. I knew what those were, even from the back of the store.

Anyone with hemorrhoids would know what those suppositories were. And, I might add, exactly what they were for. Evidently they weren't working for old Mrs. D.....

The druggist struggled with trying to ask her quite the correct questions. Truthfully, there weren't that many questions to ask.

It was kind of fun watching. He knew they would help; yet, they didn't.

After several minutes of her complaining, he finally figured out what I've been telling you all along, here. We have all this great stuff, but we're stupid.

She wasn't removing the tin foil wrapping, it turned out.

Excuse me, I have to shake another cell phone call out.